SAPA Held Career Development Workshop for Students and Young Professionals “Take a Peek at the Pharmaceutical Industry”

Our Speakers and Planning Committee Members

On Mar 26th, the Sino-American Pharmaceutical Professionals Association (SAPA) successfully held a Career Development Workshop for Students and Young Professionals (CDW-SYP), themed “Take a Peek at the Pharmaceutical Industry”. This workshop focused on the career path, opportunities, and tips on how to enter and grow in the pharmaceutical and biotech industry.

CDW-SYP was set up to lead the young talents to the career opportunities in the pharmaceutical and biotech industry

The workshop was kicked off by the co-chairs, John Sun, Yong Guo, and Chao Zheng. They highlighted the need to establish such a forum to connect the young talents with ample career opportunities. They also thanked Career Leads from the SAPA Chapters and all the volunteers for their efforts to prepare for this workshop, which was also a meaningful journey for the workshop organizing committee members.

CDW-SYP was kicked off by John Sun, Yong Guo, and Chao Zheng

CDW-SYP program agenda

A short testimonial video from the SAPA volunteers and young professionals showcased their journey by being part of the SAPA community, connecting strongly with each other, and growing together in many ways, including a deeper understanding of the career opportunities, effective networking, and enhancing leadership and communication skills. SAPA is actively recruiting young passionate talents to help build a stronger professional association, so please reach out to us if you are interested.

SAPA welcomes new members to join us and grow together

SAPA President, Xiaodong Chen, then gave an introduction of the SAPA organization, missions focus on science, education, collaboration, and career, and many impactful events planned for the year. Xiaodong affirmed that SAPA is dedicated to serving its membership and communities through these events.

SAPA President, Xiaodong Chen, introduced SAPA to the audience

Session A: A quick guidance to enter and navigate the pharma & biotech industry

In the first session, “Overview of the Pharma & Biotech Industry”, the invited industrial advisors gave a nice overview of the industry landscape and ecosystem: Jessicca Rege (Vice President & Head of Oncology at Alkermes), Henry Wei (Head of Development Innovation at Regeneron), Timothy Zheng (Senior Vice President of Immunology at Cygnal/Inzen Therapeutics), and Dewan Zeng (Head of Search and Evaluation of Business Development at BeiGene) were invited and they all have rich industry experience and brought different perspectives of the Pharma and Biotech industry from their own career paths.
When asked about career advice, Jessicca suggested that we follow our passion and then ask around to find better opportunities. She also gave the advice that “remember that you may fail more than you succeed, and learn how to grow with failure.” Henry has a unique perspective due to his background in health policy, digital health, and clinical innovation. He emphasized curiosity and looking out for gaps and building up personal brands. It’s a good time to enter the Pharma & Biotech Industry, we all need to see the wave and learn how to ride it. Henry also thinks that diverse cultural backgrounds may help us succeed. Both Tim and Dewan valued communication skills and mentorship. Dewan mentioned that teamwork versus independent research may be a major difference between industry and academia, and could help you decide where to go. Tim also discussed the differences in career paths in big and small companies, and he thinks that risk factors, such as financial situation, are all factored into your consideration when making a career choice.

Panelists in discussion about career options in pharma & biotech industry.

Session B: How to make informed choices when facing various career options and possibilities

Session B “Choices and Possibilities” adopted an interesting format: Debate. The moderators Yongle Pang, Traci Zhang, and Prof. Yong Guo invited several young representatives from big or small companies, academia or industry, research, or other functions to join the debate and shared their work experiences and real-life examples. Small companies and some contracted research organizations (CROs) are faster-paced compared to the bigger Pharma companies. You may be asked to handle multiple projects at the same time, learn more and faster, and may have more opportunities to try new areas. On the other side, the big companies have better infrastructure and support, stronger management and talent pool to learn from, and with better compensation and work-life balance.
Prof. Guo thinks that the biggest advantage of working in academia is the flexibility of time arrangement followed by the freedom of research topics. However, teaching is an integral part of academic jobs, so do consider academia if you are primarily interested in teaching. Vania Cao said that “The fact that you were doing research before doesn’t mean that you need to continue to do it.” A good way to approach a new career is to do research on it, talk to people to learn their experiences, accumulate the necessary experience and then find a dream job. Don’t think you can find a good job? Tracy encouraged us to have more confidence, “if you have a big picture in mind, care about the patients, product and the company, then you are the good candidate that the companies want to get.” More details were mentioned during the debate. There are numerous possibilities and choices we need to make in our career.

Session B’s panelists in debate about career choices and possibilities

Coffee Break and Recruiting Showcase

Many of our sponsors and invited speakers were recruiting talents. During the 10-min coffee break between sessions, Accurant BioTech presented an introduction video about the company. It is a global Contract Research Organization, providing high-quality regulated bioanalytical, bio-product testing, and clinical diagnostic testing services. Please reach out to them if you want to get the job opportunity!

Our Sponsor, Accurant BioTech, presented recruiting video during the coffee break

Session C: Keep dreaming, learning, and moving to seek better opportunities and grow faster

In Session C “Keep Dreaming, Keep Learning, Keep Moving”, moderators Susie Wang and Yulan Zhang invited several young professionals to share their real-life stories in various fields (R&D, equity research, patent law, and consulting). They all made a leap in their career journey after their graduate schools. They addressed the hot career questions, ranging from how to get into the industry to how to seek leadership roles, and gave many great tips and lessons learnt from their own experiences.
Reaching out to your networks to learn the skill gaps and about the jobs you want to get is the most recommended way to get into a new field. While some technical skills are important to acquire, you also need to learn many others, particularly the soft skills on the job. Leadership doesn’t only mean being a manager, but also calls for accountability, willingness to step up and grow team members, and the big-picture mindset. To seek higher positions, an effective way is to strengthen your communication skills and find chances to practice your leadership skills in and even outside your job scope. The panelists showed not only how STEM students can get into quite diverse career paths, but also how to flourish in them.

Section C panelists in discussion about career transition and growth

Session D: Tips and experiences from the senior professionals for future success in career

Continuing the workshop into Session D, Jiaying Liu, Lieyang Chen and Dengpan Liang led a discussion with a group of experienced professionals and executives in the pharmaceutical industry to further dive into the challenges and struggles of career development for the young professionals, and learn how to set up for future success. Do we need to fight for a managerial role? The panelists advised that leadership skills are essential to personal growth and you should consider giving back to the teams and companies by helping with others’ talent growth. How to get promoted? Tiffany Woo emphasized that the opportunities don’t wait for you and we need to get out of our comfort zones and leverage the employee resource groups in the companies. Eric Rong said that he never planned to be a CEO, but did make a lot of efforts to work on things he’s interested in and skilled up himself to be suitable for the more demanding roles. When asked about what to watch out for career development, John Sun encouraged us to be a thinker, not just a do-er. David Cragin thinks that the good things usually arrive unexpectedly and don’t forget the power of networking. While building relationships is important, Tiffany suggested to do it strategically and have tangible goals for every year.

Section D panelists in discussion about how to set up for future success for the young professionals

Parallel Breakout Sessions: Networking and Consulting

After the main sessions, the participants then joined the interactive chat in the parallel breakout virtual rooms to discuss more questions further with the panelists and peers. We also invited immigration specialists and sponsor recruiters to connect with the participants who were interested and needed specific help.

Participants joined discussion in different parallel break-out sessions based on their needs

Offline and follow-up activities of CDW-SYP

As planned, we will provide mock interview sessions for those registered through the event webpage (
Other than the virtual career development workshop, some participants also organized in-person networking activities. The CDW-SYP organizers received many positive feedbacks from the participants on how much they have learnt from this workshop and also how they were inspired for their personal development and career growth. SAPA will continue to offer high-quality career development events and resources to the community and welcome all to join us and grow together!